A Confluence of Intellectual Heterodoxies
This chapter further contextualizes aesthetic eccentricity through a discussion of intellectual eccentricity, a parallel phenomenon that crystallized in the eighteenth century. After problematizing Zhu Xi Neo-Confucianism as a true orthodoxy in the Tokugawa period, it introduces Confucianism's “mad” side—its doctrinal defense of kyō. It then revisits the Daoist roots of the ki aesthetic via its synergy with the Wang Yangming School (Yōmeigaku or Ōyōmeigaku) and National Learning (Kokugaku). Each of these traditions proved useful to eccentric thinkers like Hattori Somon (1724–1769) and Shidōken (1680?–1765), whose respective heresies advanced new ontological interpretations. The propagation of such thinkers suggests that a diverse and dynamic intellectual culture was becoming increasingly tolerant of strange people with strange thoughts. It was within this milieu that kijin maneuvered to find their place.
Keywords: aesthetic eccentricity, intellectual eccentricity, Confucianism, Wang Yangming School, National Learning, intellectual culture, Daoism